The COVID-19 pandemic has seen rapid change on a magnitude scale, not only in how we adapt at work but, in almost every aspect of how we operate our lives. We have needed to be agile, resilient, and accepting of changes. When the pandemic eventually comes to pass, changes to our lives will inevitably continue, whether that is through the absence of our favourite coffee shop, solely remote working, or perhaps your team size and structure are drastically different.
With so much big change, it is far too easy to forget the impact it can have on an individual level. While some individuals react and respond to change well, it can be deeply disturbing for others. Coupled with an environment of “high-pressure, high-stakes” it’s possible for business leaders to find themselves overwhelmed with balancing the books, and overlook their employees, and in some cases, taking the short-term view of choosing “pounds over people”.
It is a continual balancing act – how to survive today while keeping an eye on the future. Although the outlook may be bleak, this could be an extraordinary opportunity to raise levels of employee engagement and commitment. As Sir Winston Churchill said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Leaders aren’t only in pole position to make a real difference in supporting change, and the impact to their people, but in my view, have a moral obligation to do so, and it doesn’t take “reinventing the wheel”, nor does it need to be a costly exercise.
Knowing how you can support your employees through the changes of today, will serve you tomorrow.
Understanding the “Kubler-Ross change curve”
This is the journey undertaken by everyone when experiencing change, while everyone will go through a degree of different stages, not everyone will remain in those stages for the same amount of time, and they will certainly need different levels of support, to help them come through the process. It is fundamental that leaders not only understand, but embrace those differences, a look to formulate support networks that are relevant, and can be tailored to the individual.
Making wellbeing a focus, not a chore
Working lives have been turned upside down, which of course has seen a negative impact on employee wellbeing. A recent CIPD survey found 22% of workers are concerned about job security and money, as they think they will lose their job in the next 12 months. Some are concerned about returning to the workplace and the use of public transport, while others are desperate to get back into the office as they have struggled to work from home, and many are struggling to find a work-life balance.
Transparency where there can’t be stability
With so much uncertainly in both our professional and personal lives, added with the need for organisation to remain agile in an ever-changing world, the ability to offer stability might not exist, and even arguably might not be right. However, building trust and confidence still remains essential when faced with change and can still be achieved through, being transparent “paint a picture”, communicate and help your employee to understand, and of course, be honest!
Leading by example
At iD, and like many other businesses we have been required to change huge aspects of how we function. We have always kept in-line with one of our core values; “Our People at Our Heart,” we not only understand the importance our people play in our future but have ensured we have taken steps to mitigate the challenges, and better the working lives of everyone in the year of change. To do this effectively we have:
Moved completely to remote working. Our office space was no longer serving the right purpose for us and was a huge overhead - so we scrapped it. We have always been set -up for working remotely so actually, this was a seamless journey for us. We are remaining open-minded about the right balance of home and office but for now, the positives are outweighing the negatives on a company and an individual basis.
Offered staff unlimited holiday. A new initiative introduced for 2021, we are trialing unlimited annual leave. In trusting our teams to manage their workload, support each other, and take time off when they need to recharge, we see this as a highly positive and exciting step for iD.
Given the option for flexible working. Bursts of creative inspiration do not always hit between 9am and 6pm, and projects don’t fall evenly throughout the year – so let’s not try to fit a round peg in a square hole. Flexible hours are something we have toyed with for a few years and as work and home life overlap more and more, this attitude is more fitting than ever.
Hold regular multi-channel meetings. Talking about what we are watching on Netflix and how our weekends were can be as beneficial to the individual and company as ones with 12-point agendas. The traditional ‘water cooler’ chats are encouraged through regular, casual virtual calls where colleagues can dip in and out of to catch up with each other on a personal level.
Given an out-of-office allowance. Despite the physical distance of working remotely, we feel strongly about keeping emotional closeness. Each colleague has an allowance to support them working out of the house in coffee shops and remote offices and most importantly to meet face to face with each other (where permitted) and whether they are in the same team or not.
Awarded training opportunities. Ensuring our team continues to develop, grow, and engage in new skills is essential for our company to stay agile and move with the times. Now is not the time to get stuck in our boxes but to reach out to where new skills can be developed.